The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern over lack of space and logistics to cater for Burundian refugees in Rwanda.
More than 85000 Burundian refugees fled to Rwanda since 2015 – following political unrest resulting from President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for another term.
In a communiqué this afternoon, UNHCR said that Mahama refugee camp in Eastern Rwanda is full beyond its capacity – and cannot accomodate any more refugees.
“We have around 54,000 refugees in the camp and the space we have has already been occupied by semi-permanent shelters,” said Janet Pima, UNHCR’s Protection Officer in Mahama.
The camp – sits on a 100- hectares of land provided by the government in Kirehe district, Eastern Province.
“We don’t have any more space which is the main challenge we have for now. We will not be able to relocate any new arrivals until we have an extension of the camp,” she added.
UN says it has appealed to Rwanda government for more land.
Rwanda says all its available land has been handed to UNHCR to accommodate and cater for the Burundian refugees – leaving no more public land to cater for them.
“We have no more government land to offer in Mahama,” Antoine Ruvebana, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) told KT Press on Tuesday.
He said that however, government considers the issue of more space to accommodate refugees.
“We are signatory to an international agreement in which the government has agreed to host every foreign seeking refugee as a result of insecurity back home. In this case, Rwanda will always find space to accommodate refugees,” Ruvebana said.
“We have held talks with UNHCR over the issue. But government will first look for money to buy land from the surrounding communities,” Ruvebana told KT Press.
Meanwhile, last week, UNHCR launched an urgent appeal for $429 million to help meet the needs of refugees across the region. Barely 12% of this fund was raised.
According to UNHCR’s Janet Pima, “If we don’t get the space soon, refugees will be congested in the shelters or they will have to remain in the reception centres for quite a long time.”